Finland’s military began efforts Monday to re-establish contact with approximately 900,000 former army conscripts, a news report said. The letter campaign came amid concern related to increased military activity from Russia, Finland’s neighbor, but a Finnish official denied the communication was a direct response to the Kremlin’s recent behavior.
Finland claimed the letters were a means of updating veterans on their responsibilities in the event of a war, given recent cuts to its military budget. Finnish males are required to serve short terms in the military, but Finland opted earlier this year to reduce its wartime army from 350,000 to 230,000 members and to slash its defense spending by 1.4 percent compared to 2012, Reuters reports.
“The aim is to update reservists about their wartime roles and assignments and to open up interaction on how their know-how has developed,” Finland military spokesman Mika Kalliomaa said.
Finland has close economic ties with Russia but has questioned the recent uptick in Russian military activity around Eastern Europe. Moscow drew international criticism for its March 2014 annexation of Crimea and subsequent purported involvement in the ongoing eastern Ukraine conflict. Finland’s defense minister joined with counterparts in neutral Sweden and NATO nations Norway, Denmark and Iceland in April to pledge greater military cooperation. The nations rebuked Russia in a statement.
“Russia’s leaders have shown that they are prepared to make practical and effective use of military means in order to reach their political goals, even when this involves violating principles of international law,” the defense ministers said in a joint statement, Reuters reported.
Finland’s navy dropped depth charges at a suspected Russian submarine spotted last week near Helsinki. Several nations, including Latvia and Sweden, have reported Russian naval activity near their borders since last year.
A group of NATO nations invited Sweden, which is not part of the military alliance, to take part in its joint naval training exercises in the North Sea on Monday. The drills aimed to test the nations’ ability to local and disable submarines.